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Ending the third year of our Sesiones del Migrante partnership, about a month ago Bale Breaker owners Kevin Quinn and Kevin “Smitty” Smith traveled to Mexico to brew beer with Cervecería de Colima in Colima and Cerveza Loba in Guadalajara. The partnership began in 2017 to celebrate the Mexican migrant workers who travel to the Yakima Valley to harvest hops for breweries across the globe. We hope to raise awareness around the fact that while migrant workers cross borders to harvest hops, so does beer. With every beer you might drink no matter where you are, these important–often forgotten–people are part of the craft beer supply chain and are essential to make your pint possible. It’s our way of celebrating them and saying thank you.
By owner & brewmaster Kevin "Smitty" Smith
The dust rises, falls, and settles around us as our steel stallion comes to a halt on a strip of land outside of Guadalajara, Mexico. Hello, old friend. This is all too familiar. The sound our spurs make on the pavement. The color of the sun as it sets on the hills. The warm breeze that gently rustles the hair on our upper lips. It has been too long since we ventured to this part of the world. Too long since these emotions were stirred up inside us – since these feelings have pulsated through our bones. It is finally time. The next chapter in the saga that is Sesiones del Migrantes has begun.
Sesiones del Migrantes is about much more than any one cerveza. Sure, we are amigos y compadres. Yet, our bond with these brewers is thicker than beer. Stronger than mescal. Our days were spent talking, brewing, and drinking beer with our friends form Cerveza Loba, Cerveceria de Colima, and Yakima Chief. Nevertheless, the beer only serves as a common language, a lexicon, to tell a story that is far greater than any combination of malt, hops, and yeast. The beer is just the introduction to a story about a brave culture. This collaboration is the prologue to a tale about people that welcome the unknown and venture out in search of a better way. Our path to Guadalajara mirrors the path traveled by workers through California, into Oregon, and eventually to the Yakima Valley. Their hard work is undoubtedly the most essential piece of a puzzle that allows us to deliver the Valley’s hops into your beer and the fruit from our trees to your grandmother’s apple pie.
But first, the beer. We learned how to brew from the pioneers of the craft industry. The first of many brewers that had settled out west of the Rockies. We learned to craft beers so bitter and hoppy that the hairs on your chest grew so fast and thick you could stop a lead plum from a Colt 45. However, our friends in Mexico learned elsewhere. They emulated the techniques of the Germans and the Irishmen. These skills allow them to make some of the most refreshing lagers that have washed across these taste buds. Lagers that were so clean and crisp they were better at protecting you from the sun than any 10-gallon hat or tube of gas station sunscreen.
While brewing in Mexico, time seems to move slower – at times it seems to stand still. At times, we don’t even brew at all. Sometimes, brewing is sharing a warm glass of tequila before breakfast in order to chase away the demons and barrel fever from the night before. Sometimes, brewing is laying in a hammock while strumming a ukulele. Sometimes, brewing is passing around the devil’s lettuce, some Mexicali Haze, while standing knee deep in the Pacific Ocean gazing aimlessly at the horizon. Other times, it means wasting the afternoon away in cantinas searching for truth in the bottom of a glass of mescal. Always, by the end of the brew day, we were full as a tick on tequila and chilaquiles. Yet, whatever form our brewing takes, I am certain we leave Mexico better brewers than we arrived.
Brewing, however, isn’t the most enjoyable part of this adventure. To be honest, drinking the damn beer isn’t even the best part. No moment is better than when we are able to tell the story of the true heroes. Using beer as our soap box, we hope to spread the legend of those who travel to our valley to help us accomplish what we love to do. Through these beers, we are not only able to tell a story, but we are able to give back to the community that has given us so much. It is the closing of a loop on a lasso – a demonstration of symbiosis and synergy.
Hoppy beer, IPA in particular, is to today’s beer community what a cud of chewing tobacco is to a lonely cowboy on an open range. You can hardly imagine one without the other. However, what many don’t realize is that the alfalfa desperados in our valley are equally dependent on migration. Fields of hops would be left unpicked, apples would hang on trees into the winter, and hemp would be nothing more than a weed without the helping hands of migrant workers. We truly hope that through Sesiones del Migrantes we can introduce this story to beer lovers up and down the west coast. The story, while quite simple, is extraordinarily important. Beer depends on farms. Farms depend on migration.
Of course, this is not the end of Sesiones del Migrantes, it is only the beginning. We will continue to brew beer up and down this trail – making many stops along the way to get all roostered up on cowboy cocktails and coffin varnish. But we’ll never be too top-heavy to share this beautiful tale to all ears that perk up. Making sure that it is dyed in the wool that just as significant as the rays of our warm summer sun and as vital as a full mountain reservoir, migration is an essential part of our valley, our home.
I already miss Mexico. Feels like it’s time to return again. Hell, maybe I’ll find me a casita on the outskirts of Colima where I can watch the sun slowly melt into the Pacific while I get fuddled on local mescal. Maybe when my work here is done. Maybe…
Save the date: May 2, 2020 is scheduled for our Sesiones Del Migrante 2020 release party!
Posted January 24, 2020